The Wool season is now in full swing at Jamieson & Smith, a recent spell of fine weather has meant that wool producers have had a dry early start for clipping.
As the wool store fills up, grading the clips is under way and our first shipment left us last week on its way down to our parent company Curtis Wool direct, to be processed and spun into our yarns.
While Derek and Jan who work full time in the woolstore and Robert, who has joined us for the summer season, get to work on the white fleeces Oliver has been in what we call the Middle Store sorting some of the coloured fleeces.
Since Oliver has been to see some of the coloured sheep on their home turf recently we thought you might like to see some of his photos and hear a bit more about the coloured Shetland Sheep.
Shetland Sheep can have a huge variety of colours and markings, in the past the natural colours were used for all types of knitting and for blending in Fair Isle. When man made fibres became widely available and the market for wool declined coloured sheep became a lot less desirable and crofters began to move solely into the white fleeced sheep which they knew the fleeces would be sold. At one point people were just throwing away the coloured fleeces as it wasn’t worth taking them to be sold.
Thankfully now there is a good market for the coloured sheep, and some Shetlanders are actively trying to revive the strength of the different shades. There are 11 main Shades with over 30 different markings currently recognised.
Oliver went to see Jan and her family doing some of their clipping last week, and Jan’s niece’s were showing their clipping skills.
Once the coloured ‘oo has been dropped off to us it is then hand graded and hand sorted into its various shades and qualities.
As the quality of different shades can vary within the fleece, (Shetland black can be coarser than other shades, and dark grey is very course) each fleece is handled and dissected by Oliver and separated into grades.
The natural colours go into all our undyed yarns like Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight, which comes in 9 shades
Having a wide range of products made from the natural colours ensures there is a steady demand for this type of wool, meaning we can secure the future of the coloured wool.